Eric Guenther

With daughter Taylor, 13, fishing in Destin, Florida—the daughter who also loves AC/DC.

Eric Guenther
Chief of Police
City of Mundelein, IL

Favorite Music

Rock and country. “Battle song” is AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.

Challenge

Eric’s suburban Chicago police department started to see a spike in heroin and prescription drug use. What officers reported, however, was that they were returning to some homes as many as three times to reverse overdoses. They wanted to figure out how to provide help on the front end, before the overdose.

Solution

Eric reached out to seven other police chiefs in the county to come up with a strategy to divert drug users from the criminal justice system to health treatment. That concept became The Way Out program through which drug users can walk into a police station and ask for help without fear of being handcuffed.

The police departments partner with the county health department to screen drug users through a 24-hour crisis line to get them to appropriate care (i.e. inpatient, outpatient, or hospital). The Way Out Program launched June 1, 2016, and now averages 12 cases per month.  

Eric also became part of the Lake County Opioid Initiative, a collective of roughly 70 groups that come together monthly to discuss strategies. He became co-leader of the first responders group and the department launched a Naloxone program in which all law enforcement responders were trained to administer the drug that reverses an overdose. Over three years, the program has reversed 170 overdoses.

Lessons Learned

Building infrastructure on the front end is key. Mundelein partnered with area hospitals, chief judges, the probation department, the state’s attorney, the health department, the 12-step user community, and Rosalind-Franklin University to evaluate the effectiveness of the program and changes in public perception.

Eric’s Personal Background

Lives a block from where he grew up in Grayslake, with his wife and three daughters, ages 15, 13, and 11. Played rugby in college at University of Wisconsin-Platteville and is still active in sports with his daughters who do soccer, volleyball, and gymnastics. Eric’s grandfather was a lieutenant with Illinois State Police so law enforcement is in Eric’s blood, he says. Brother is also with Mundelein police department in special investigations. Eric started out as a patrol officer in 1995, worked his way up the ranks, and was appointed police chief in 2013.

Startling Fact

Has stepped into the boxing ring to raise money for boxing scholarships for area kids. His official USA boxing record stands at 1 win and 0 losses.

Connect with Eric!

eguenther@mundelein.org

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